We’ve all got a bunch of hidden dreams, a few projects on the back burner and a self expanding list of tasks that need to be done.
If the sheer amount of books, articles, speeches and other resources on productivity and goals tells me anything, is that we are all eager to find out what it really takes to get things done.
How to get shit done – 18 steps to get things done
And I’m sorry to inform you that there is no one productivity hack that will suddenly cross everything off your list.
Being productive is the result of many habits, decisions and life choices. These are the 18 most important ones.
Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation makes it harder to focus, eats on our self control, makes us sloppy, distracted and honestly, even a little bit cranky. All things you want to avoid in order to get shit done.
I find it that when I’m not rested I’m super sluggish in the morning and struggle to get to work. I also have less self control and often end up eating chocolate just to get that sugar high and a boost in energy. Which I then use to doodle or scroll through Instagram because I get easily distracted and just can’t focus. Not good.
Getting enough sleep really is the foundation for getting things done.
Identify your priority
It’s too easy to fall into the trap of being busy, of doing work but not accomplishing anything important. What you get done matters. Before you try to do it all, take a moment to identify what truly matters most.
What’s the one single thing that will have the biggest impact? Get this done above all!
Make a plan
While a plan might not be necessary for every single task, it definitely is for goals and and projects.
By planning out your next steps you’ll make sure you’ll always know what’s next which will help preventing procrastination and keep you focused on your priorities. By making a plan you’ll also be able to better asses how much time you need to complete each step and ensure your days are manageable.
Read next: How to plan your day and stick to it
Start the day right
Your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day and that’s why having a good morning routine is so important.
Starting the day right by getting yourself into a productive and positive mood will have a great impact on how much you accomplish and how you feel for the rest of the day. Your morning routine doesn’t have to be elaborate or long although it can be, if that’s what you want. The important thing here is that you find a morning routine that works for you.
Read next: How to have a productive morning
Try some productivity systems and methods
When it comes to productivity systems there is no one size fits all and you will hv to try and experiment before you find one that works for you. Below I’ve listed some of the most popular systems and methods for you to try.
The pomodoro technique relies on the use of a timer to alternate between focused work and strategic breaks. The idea behind is is to fully focus on a task while working. The short intervals make it easier to stay in the zone and get it done while the regular but timed breaks provide clarity and prevent you from getting sucked into procrastination.
This is one of my favorite methods. By batching similar tasks together and blocking out time to work on them you minimize distractions and optimize your focus.
Eat the frog
The frog refers to the biggest scariest task for the day. The idea is to do it first thing in the morning and get it out of the way as soon as possible. This way you won’t procrastinate doing it and you’ll be working on it before the other tasks drain your energy and focus.
This is the exact opposite of the above. The idea here is to start with small, easy tasks and use the early wins to build momentum to accomplish the bigger scary stuff. You basically eat the frog last.
Ever found yourself with a long to-do list that just won’t stop growing? By implementing this method you cut your todos down to the three most important tasks for the month, week and day. The daily three should help you work towards your weekly three and your weekly three should in turn help you move the needle on the monthly three.
The 80/20 rule, also known as Pareto’s law, states that 80% of the rules come from 20% of the actions. Identify the 20% of the actions that have the biggest impact and prioritize those.
The Eisenhower Matrix
Another goldie. This matrix helps you sort tasks by looking at urgency and importance. It can be used to identify priorities, tasks to delegate and tasks to eliminate.
Draw a cross on a piece of paper to divide it into four quadrants. Q1 are the urgent and important tasks you should do immediately. Q2 are non urgent but important tasks that you should plan for. Q3 are urgent tasks that are not very important which you’d ideally delegate. And finally n Q4 you’ll find tasks that are neither important nor urgent and should as such be eliminated.
The Getting Things Done system (GTD) is one of the most famous productivity systems. To be fair, it’s a fairly advanced framework that works wonders for some, but overwhelms others with several lists, multiple priorities and very detailed rules.
The Getting Things done workflow isn’t for everyone, but if you do take the time to figure it out it will change your life.
12 week year
The idea behind the 12 week year is to shorten the period for which we set goals plan for. By doing so we keep the goal at the front of our mind and we find it easier to commit to something for a shorter period of time. Since we have less time to reach our goals we’re more likely to take action immediately.
Tweak those systems and methods
Maybe, you’ll be happy with the chosen productivity system out of the box. More likely you won’t.
Keep in mind that these systems and methods have been developed by very different people with different personalities and lives. If you find some aspects of a system that don’t work for you, feel free to change them, mix and match them and create your own. Experiment until you find the right combo for you.
Read next: How I skyrocketed my productivity
Use the right tools for the job
You probably wouldn’t expect a builder to build a house using paper scissors and a rock, so why would you expect yourself to accomplish something with equally ineffective tools? You need to invest in the right tools for the job to get the job done.
Make it easy to start
It takes energy to start a new activity. This activation energy can be substantial and that’s where Anchor’s 20 second rule comes in handy. Make it so easy to start a new task that it only takes a few seconds. Remove any unnecessary steps. Simple is better.
Then, once you’ve started with the simplest first step, the Ovsiankina Effect kicks in. This is the human tendency to complete any unfinished tasks.
Make sure you’re getting the right things done
There’s a big difference between being productive and being busy. Funnily enough, work is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination. We get that fake feeling of accomplishment, of getting things done while we’re not really moving any closer to our goals or the end of our to do list.
If that’s the case, refer back to your plan and your priorities to help you get back on track. Identify your 20% and if you still feel like you’re not getting the right traction, complete the Eisenhower box exercise.
Deep work, not multitasking
In his tediously slow book Cal Newport explains a life changing concept and a skill we should all learn to foster. Deep work is the ability to focus without distractions, to allocate a chunk of time to a single action and be 100% there.
By getting into the flow you’ll be able to perform on a higher level. Which is not possible when multitasking or when we keep getting distracted.
Distractions scatter our attention and it takes a considerable amount of time to refocus. This is also true for multitasking since the multiple things we’re trying to do at the same time are effectively just a distraction from each other.
Build the right habits
The word on the street is that we have a limited amount of self control and willpower. With every decision we make our ability to make good choices diminishes just a little bit. With every temptation that presents itself, our self control gets just a little bit weaker. With every distraction, our willpower to get back to work dims out just a little bit more.
That’s where good habits come into play. While it takes a tremendous amount of willpower and self control to create a new habit, once the habit is in place it becomes automatic. By establishing a habit you decide once so that you don’t have to decide again.
Get into the habit of getting shit done. This might mean different things to different people.
We resort to habits when stressed and under pressure, that’s why establishing good habits is important.
As already discussed, we have a limited amount of willpower and self control. It also takes substantial energy to start on a new task and it takes a substantial amount of time to focus or refocus on said task. And that’s on top of the time we’ve wasted on the distraction. Do I really need to keep going?
Turn off notification, put your phone away, set some healthy boundaries with your coworkers, clients, family or friends and clean up your workspace. When there’s nothing else to do, getting thins done becomes a whole lot easier!
There is a cost to everything we do but it might not be money. In fact, more often than not we pay in time, attention and energy. These are all limited resources. And when we spend them on something, we might not have enough left for something else.
Often, saying no to one thing means you’ll be able to say yes to something better.
It’s important to choose wisely how we allocate our resources.
Breaks are more productive than you’d think. By stepping back you’ll be able to return to work with replenished energy and often look at a task with a fresh set of eyes.
Regular breaks boost creativity, help with problem solving and prevent burnouts.
As you’ve seen there’s plenty of productivity methods to choose from and they all work. But not all of them work for everyone. It’s important that you get to know yourself, what motivates you, and test what works best for you.
Journaling is a great exercise to help you with self discovery. Start by answering the following questions which will help you identify the best methods to help you get things done;
- What are your values and your vision?
- Are you a morning person or a night owl?
- Do you thrive on familiarity or do you seek novelty?
- Are you detail oriented or more of a big picture thinker?
- Do you get a bigger kick by starting a new project or by finishing it?
- When are your energy levels the highest? And when are they low?
- What gives you energy? What drains it?
- What are the things on your calendar that you look forward to most?
- Are you more likely to get things done with a slow and steady progress (by taking small steps) or do you perform better with big busts of productivity?
Surround yourself with doers
Humans are herd animals. We want to fit in, we mimic others, we adapt each other’s habits and values. Who we hang out with matters.
Jim Rohn famously said that we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
By surrounding yourself with doers you’ll be increasingly more likely to get things done.
Take care of your body
Ever noticed that energy dip after a plate of mac’n’cheese? We’re supposed to feed our body so it has more energy, not less!
If you want to get stuff done you need a body that can do said stuff. This means eating well and exercising often. It might seem counter intuitive, but exercise actually gives us more energy, it also releases stress, helps to focus, boosts our mood and has a whole bunch of other healthy benefits.
Similar to sleep, good health is a prerequisite to a happy and productive life. By nourishing and moving your body well you’ll make sure you have the energy to kick ass.
Know when to stop
Burnouts. They’re a real thing and trust me, they’re not fun!
It’s easy to get sucked up in the doing, to put more on our plate than we can chew, to forget to rest or take care of ourselves. But this has a taxing effect on our brain and body.
Know when to sign off for the day, learnt to disconnect from your to do list and please, please don’t pile up those holiday days, use them! And use them to relax, you’ve earned it.
If you feel like you’re constantly stressed you need to take a step back.
Again, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of rest, good food, exercise and quality breaks. Crushing goals is great, but your wellbeing should come first.
Only by regularly taking care of yourself you’ll be able to be on top of your game and consistently get stuff done. It’s easier to keep up than having to catch up!